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The Power of Screens in the Age of the Corona Virus

In my previous post I made the case that for all the criticism pioneering pastors have received for live streaming their services, in the age of the Corona Virus, they’re starting to look downright prophetic. I received a great number of responses to the post, and many were about the power of screens themselves. I find most baby boomer pastors still have trouble conceiving the idea that watching a live video stream of a church service is really a “church.”

And to be honest, there is a great deal of research that puts excessive time in front of screens in a bad light, including increased loneliness, a sense of isolation, and after growing up with screens, this generation has difficulty reading a room.

But there’s a flip side as well. One comment I received from my friend Larry Ross was fascinating. Larry is the founder and CEO of A. Larry Ross Communications and ran the public relations efforts for more than 70 Billy Graham crusades. He shared this interesting observation:

In addition to the misconception that live-streaming will cannibalize attendance, another fallacy is that the salvation response or impact will be less than live in the main sanctuary, but that is not necessarily the case. First, most people in the house, except perhaps attendees in the first six rows, are watching on the large video screens. But that is amplified when viewing remotely. In fact, at virtually every one of the more than 70 Billy Graham crusades for which I was privileged to coordinate media relations and coverage, the percentage response out of the overflow auditorium (people literally coming forward to a Jumbotron screen), was always much higher than in the main arena or stadium.
The reason is that the impact was greater and seemed more intimate when Mr. Graham’s head was 20 feet tall than seeing him in his entirety as a speck on the stage a football field away.

In other words, it was Larry’s experience that those in the back of the arena or in overflow rooms who watched a image magnification screen felt a more intimate sense of reality than those up closer to the stage.

The point is that video screens have always been more powerful than most of us think. Which means that we’re doing a great disservice to the public when we fail to recognize the power of sharing our worship services and messages online either through a computer or a mobile device. And it’s even more significant when you realize with today’s technology, any church of any size can live stream their services.

So for those of you who have been slow to consider the possibilities of live streaming your church services, conferences, or other meetings, perhaps the advent of the Corona Virus will make you think again.

Dan Wathen, our Executive Producer at Cooke Media Group noticed this statement posted on Judah Smith’s Churchome website:

Due to the continued reports of cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Washington state and Kirkland, we’re choosing to exercise caution to support the safety and health of our community. Therefore, we are closing our Seattle Churchome locations (Kirkland, Bothell, Downtown, and UD) until further notice. We will continue to follow the recommendations of King County Public Health and the Center for Disease Control for how best to respond to the developing situation.
To continue to receive updates, please text “CHupdate” to 97000.
While our buildings may be closed for the time being, church is still happening! We understand this can be an unsettling time, and it’s in times like these that we are so grateful for our interactive online church experience. If you haven’t yet downloaded the free Churchome app, we encourage you to do so!

The site goes on to share how to get in touch, when the online services begin, and other important information.

Judah is prepared and understands the power of screens.

I just wish every church did.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

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  1. And, with this moment at hand, would you believe my church’s video director was let go a few weeks ago as the church repurposes money into a consultant-constructed do-gooder campaign that, word is, has had negligible results or failed everywhere the consultant has sold it? We’re still streaming, but the college students who now get to take turns directing have almost made it unwatchable as they TRY to one-up each other to make us look like “that one epic church in the big cool city in that part of the country they’d all love to move to if they could,” a church that we’re bigger than and serves a population nothing like ours (as in doesn’t exist here), by the way.

    I am NOT generally against consultants, but, if certain information is true, this consultant is costing the church more than 4x the video director’s salary, and attendance and giving decline the more we’ve gone down his paths. It’s one of many “does anyone here pray and listen to God because it seems we’ve gone Bizarro-world in the last year or two and are completely ignoring everything that clearly presents itself right at our door” moments that has me, a longtime video volunteer, in his final weeks and looking for another church the weeks I’m not serving.

    1. It’s difficult to respond to a situation I don’t know anything about, but I would encourage you to not give up too quickly. As a volunteer, there are motivations and reasons you may not fully know about, and I tend to give leadership the benefit of the doubt. If the strategy is indeed wrong (and yes, it often is) then the results will show up soon enough. Then you can decide how to proceed.

  2. Hey Phil, I don’t think the issue is with screens but with the community (or lack there of). I don’t believe God intended church gatherings to be a show people watch – whether in person or on a screen – but rather a gathering of believers who worship, encourage, teach and love one another.

    Granted, lots of people go to church, take in a service as if it were a show, and leave. (That’s another issue for another time.) But watching a service at home on a screen makes community even more difficult to experience and contribute to.

    That said, with the coronavirus pandemic, watching a service at home on a screen is better than nothing. But I also think as church leaders, we need to really think about what else we can do to foster engagement, relationships, and loving one another among those who watch live streamed services.

    1. You’re right Paul, and I’m not talking about REPLACING actual church services with an online experience. But in the age of the Corona virus, plus considering transient and former church members, people who travel, college students and more, if we’re not producing an online experience, we’re missing out on a significant way to impact people ‘s lives. Thanks for bringing up that issue!

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